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Study Group for Enhancing Human Resource Capability in Japanese Industries to be Established

As Japanese industries are facing rapid changes in business environments due to the fourth industrial revolution and other emerging advanced technologies, dramatic enhancement of human resource capability as a basis for their sustainable growth is an urgent obstacle that must be overcome.

In light of the arrival of the era of the 100-year lifespan, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) considers it important to study a package of the following issues in order to develop strategies for society as a whole to coordinate the optimal re-shuffling of human resources through: [ⅰ] enrichment of Japan’s recurrent education system, [ⅱ] facilitation of labor mobility or re-employment, in particular from large enterprises to SMEs and other entities, [ⅲ] determining the necessary human resources for the future, and methods of securing and utilizing such human resources[ⅱ], and [ⅳ] roles that industrial players should play in this process. To achieve these goals, METI decided to establish a new study group.

1. Background and purpose

Due to the effects of current rapid changes in the business environments against the backdrop of the fourth industrial revolution and other emerging advanced technologies and a shift in the source of added value from capital to human resources, Japanese industries are facing persistent labor shortages caused by problems in the current structure of society, e.g., declining population and urban migration.

In particular, SMEs, micro businesses and start-ups have been faced with serious, annually increasing labor shortages, and subsequently concern on the part of management. On the other hand, due to the facts that a significant majority of job seekers have the tendency to apply to large enterprises, and that middle-aged and older employees have insufficient opportunities to play a leading role in large enterprises, a variety of employment-related issues persist in Japan. With this trend, and with the arrival of the era of the 100-year lifespan, a societal trend is arising in which many companies cannot provide well-developed working environments where individuals are able to continue to play a leading role, or cannot optimally organize their human resources.

To address this situation, METI considers it important to study a range of issues: [ⅰ] enrichment of Japan’s recurrent education system, [ⅱ] facilitation of labor mobility or re-employment, in particular from large enterprises to SMEs and other entities, [ⅲ] determining the necessary human resources for the future, and methods of securing and utilizing such human resources [ⅱ], and [ⅳ] roles that industrial players should play in this process. To achieve these goals, METI decided to establish a new study group.

2. Outline of the study group

METI will establish: two new working groups focusing on the following respective themes, based on which both groups will collect case examples and other information on the current situations and hold discussions concerning obstacles and future directions to be taken; and a Study Group for Enhancing Human Resource Capability in Japanese Industries to integrally discuss the results reported by the two working groups.

(1)Working Group for Necessary Human Resources and Career Building Assistance (Necessary Human Resources WG)

In light of the arrival of the era of the 100-year lifespan, individuals need to build their careers so that they become human resources that continue to create added value. To achieve this goal, it is important for the Japanese government to consult with industry to determine the necessary  human resources for the future and to develop policies that will encourage the development of such human resources and working environments in which individuals are able to continue to create added value. To this end, the working group will hold discussions concerning: [ⅰ] re-examination of basic competencies necessary for employees (desirable human resources that companies need), addressing changes in the business environments, [ⅱ] roles that companies should play in assisting individuals in advancing their careers, and [ⅲ] ideal approaches to employment systems that facilitate career ownership.

(2)Working Group for Promoting Securing and Utilization of Core Human Resources in SMEs, Micro Businesses, Start-ups, etc. (Core Human Resources Securing WG)

A labor shortage is a serious structural problem for Japan as it faces an aging and declining population. To overcome this challenge, business management of SMEs and start-ups should: see this labor shortage problem as an opportunity to change companies to achieve growth; review business challenges and service systems to improve productivity; review which categories of human resources are necessary and what working styles, through which they can develop working environments that will encourage a variety of human resources, including women, the elderly, non-Japanese nationals, middle-aged and older employees working for other companies including large enterprises to play a leading role; discover and secure desirable human resources; and encourage such human resources to continue their careers.

The working group will hold discussions concerning three issues focusing on professional core human resources that are particularly critical for SMEs and start-ups: [ⅰ] directions along which SMEs and other entities should make efforts, [ⅱ] ideal labor markets, and [ⅲ] schemes and systems for creating specific case examples.

Specifically, in discussing item [ⅲ] above (schemes and other systems for creating specific case examples), the working group will hold discussions considering a variety of employment systems, including second jobs and other employment patterns.

Note:In October 2016, the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency (SMEA) established a Study Group for Addressing Labor Shortage in SMEs and Micro Businesses, focusing on the potential of women, the elderly, non-Japanese nationals, and other human resources to contribute to the labor force. In response, in March 2017, the study group compiled the results into a collection of guidelines, a including a select collection of excellent case examples of achievements by SMEs and other entities.

Members of the study group (tentative)

Academic experts
Dr. Yasuo Suwa, Emeritus Professor, Hosei University
Mr. Koichiro Imano, Emeritus Professor, Gakushuin University
Stakeholders in the fields of recurrent education/job mobility and re-employment
Mr. Takehiko Ogi, President, Japan Human Resources
Ms. Kuniko Usagawa, Director, JOBS Research Center
Mr. Tomoyuki Mizutani, Chairman, Platform for Vitalizing Regional Areas and Encouraging Education
Mr. Tadafumi Miyajima, President, Institute of Social Human Capital
Mr. Eiki Yoneda, President, Essence Co., Ltd.
Companies/representative worker
Mr. Toshiyuki Kakimi, General Manager, Human Resources and General Affairs Division, ITOCHU Corporation
Mr. Soichito Nishimura, President, HARES

Note:Representatives of KEIDANREN, the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Central Federation of Societies of Commerce and Industry, the National Federation of Small Business Associations, and other officials from the related ministries and agencies are scheduled to join the study group as observers.

3. Future actions and other information

The study group and the working groups will start holding occasional meetings from around the end of September 2017, and compile a report at the end of FY2017.

Release date

September 5, 2017

Divisions in Charge

  • Information on the study group and Desirable Human Resources WG
    Office for Human Resources Policy, Economic and Industrial Policy Bureau, METI
  • Information on the Core Human Resources Securing WG
    Business Support Division, SMEA
Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry1-3-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8901, Japan Tel: +81-(0)3-3501-1511
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